John Bell (traveller)
John Bell (1691–1780) was a Scottish doctor and traveller.
Bell was born at Antermony, near Milton of Campsie in Scotland. He studied medicine in Glasgow and in 1714 set out for St Petersburg, where, through the introduction of a fellow Scot, he was nominated medical attendant to Artemy Petrovich Volynsky, recently appointed to the Persian embassy, with whom he travelled from 1715 to 1718. The next four years he spent in an embassy to China, passing through Siberia and the great Tatar deserts. He had scarcely rested from this last journey when he was summoned to attend Peter the Great in his expedition to Derbend and the Caspian Gates. In 1738 he was sent by the Russian government on a mission to Constantinople, returning in May to St Petersburg. It appears that after this he was for several years established as a merchant at Constantinople, where he married Mary Peters, a Russian lady, and returned to Scotland in 1746, where he spent the latter part of his life on his estate, enjoying the society of his friends. After a long life spent in active beneficence and philanthropic exertions he died at Antermony on 1 July 1780, at the advanced age of eighty-nine. He is buried in Campsie Glen. His travels, published at Glasgow in 1763, were speedily translated into French, and widely circulated in Europe.
His only work is Travels from St. Petersburg in Russia to various parts of Asia 1763, in two vols., printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis of Glasgow. The Quarterly Review' (1817, pp. 464-5) says that Bell wished to obtain literary help in writing his book, and applied to Robertson, who could not help him, but advised him to take 'Gulliver's Travels' for his model. Besides the Glasgow edition of 1763 the Travels were published in Dublin (1764), in London (1764—printed for W. Homer, in the Strand), in Edinburgh (1788 and 1806), and were reprinted in the seventh volume of Pinkerton's Collection of Voyages and Travels. A French translation of the whole work appeared in Paris, 1766, 8 vols.
- Bell, John (1788). Travels from St. Petersburgh in Russia, to various parts of Asia (Vol. 1) Edinburgh : Creech. -University of Hong Kong Libraries, Digital Initiatives, China Through Western Eyes. Also available at the Internet Archive, volume one
- Bell, John (1788). Travels from St. Petersburgh in Russia, to various parts of Asia (Vol. 2) Edinburgh : Creech. -University of Hong Kong Libraries, Digital Initiatives, China Through Western Eyes, also available at the Internet Archive, volume two
- Chambers, Robert & Thomson, Thomas Napier (1857). Bell, John. A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen. 1. Glasgow: Blackie and son. pp. 203–04.
- Google Books version of William Fordyce Mavor's later retelling of Bell's travels in Russia and Asia
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